Two Simple Pole Exercises for Young Horses

Since buying Cosmo I’ve had to go back and re-hash some old exercises I used to do with Coco but with all the extra experience and knowledge I’ve gained over the years, I’ve also picked up a few new exercises that I think will be very beneficial to Cosmo’s development.

Polework is so important when schooling your youngster but its also important not to overdo it with anything too difficult or overly complicated. So below are two simple polework exercises I’ve done with Cosmo since I bought him.

Straight Line of 5

Probably one of the most basic pole exercises you can do but also one of the most beneficial. A simple straight line of 5 poles is great for working to build your horse’s topline. The extended line of poles encourages them to stretch out and work across their backs and you can create a deeper stretch by lengthening out the poles, even by just half a foot.

To take this exercise to the next level, gradually start raising the poles into low cavalettis, starting with the middle pole. Over time you should be able to get to a point where the middle three poles are raised and then you can begin to raise the height as your horse’s topline develops.

Serpentine of Poles

I found this particular layout very good for a variety of reasons. It’s a simple set up – one set of three trot poles on the diagonal and another set of five trot poles, connected to the first set, on the opposite diagonal.

When setting this up, make sure to place two of the trot poles within the set of five so that they create a funnel into the centre of the set of three. This helps maintain straightness when attempting the set of three. I also like to place the poles slightly further apart on the set of five to encourage Cosmo to stretch down and engage himself over the poles.

The full exercise should be done in a figure of 8 so the key thing to remember is rhythm. You want to maintain a consistent rhythm as you move from one set of poles to the next. It’s also important to remember not to interfere with your horse. When doing these kind of exercises with your youngster you want them to figure poles out for themselves so if they don’t meet the exercise perfectly to begin with, don’t worry, with repetition and a consistent rhythm, they will get the hang of it.

The last thing to focus on is straightness. Young horse’s tend to be quite wiggly with their arses swinging out behind them doing it’s own thing so make sure to do your best to support your horse’s body using your legs to keep him as straight as possible. You won’t always get it bang on but over time they’ll eventually learn.

Check out Cosmo taking on these exercises in our demonstration video below:

These are two very simple exercises that are perfect for introducing any horse to polework. They’re not overly complicated but they’re enough to get them thinking about where they’re putting their feet, and to really get them working across their back. Hopefully you’ll find these as useful as I did!

Thanks for reading,


May Flatwork Exercise – Pain in the Pole!

This exercise was quite deceiving, going to ride this exercise, myself & Orla were slightly cocky in a sense that we thought it was going to be a simple flatwork exercise, well it couldn’t of challenged us more … 

This Incognito evil pole exercise tests you, your patience & your horses suppleness! Be aware, it really will pin point areas of your riding that you need to work on. 

Keep scrolling to find out more… 

The Set Up

You will need to clear up your arena for this one, as you will need all the space you can get. You will need 11 poles for your set up, with 3 x Cavalettis, or blocks to raise your poles. 
Between each trot pole there are 4 & a half footsteps.

As you will be placing some poles diagonally, make sure to measure your footsteps in the center. This will not only mentally force you to ride straight but help to get the correct trot striding.

Between the cavalettis, measure out 5 footsteps as your horse will need a little more space to stretch and lift over the poles. See this image below for your set up.

What This Exercise is Good For? 

  • Engaging the hind
  • How important your body position is whilst riding 
  • Getting your horse to listen to you 
  • Improves your horses suppleness

Step by Step Guide on How To Ride This Exercise

1. As always we recommend a good warm up for your horse prior to partaking in any of our exercises. This exercises is based solely on trotting but you should not neglect any canter work that you usually do in your warm up.

2.Our focus before we began this exercises was mainly to establish a forward moving trot, a horse moving into our hands from our leg & seat. Practicing 10 metre circles into 20 metre circles helped to loosen out the horses as this exercise does involve some tight turns once you get into it.

3.Once you are happy with your horses warm up & reactions to your leg, you can then begin on the “easy” parts of this exercise. Start by ignoring the cavalettis section of the exercise focusing on the trot poles, put your horse over these a few times off each rein. Remembering to look to where you are going and not at the ground at the poles. Your aim is to piece both sets of trot poles together as per the image below on the left.

4.Once you are happy with your horses approach over the two sets of trot poles, then you can begin adding in some tighter turns as per the image on the right above. this is where your body comes into play & your inside leg. Sitting up tall around the corners, using your shoulder to half halt, with your inside leg directing your horse . Once you cross the centre both legs are on to keep your horse straight until you reach the set of trot poles. This took some time & practice, but once you perfect the turns, you will find this exercise to run a lot smoother. When you are happy with the turns around the cavalettis, then you can you progress to piecing the entire exercise together.

5. See the image below. Now it’s time to add the cavalletti poles to the equation! This is were we ran into a few technical difficulties, but practice certainly makes perfect. Practice the cavalettis by themselves first if you wish to get a better feel for them before you put all 3 sets of trot poles together. The secret is to keep your horse straight on approach bending them around your leg as you move over the poles. Let your horse stretch down over the poles, dont be afraid to give them their head. I found that after the last pole they ran into their trot, prepare for this by sitting back in your saddle with your leg on, this will help to keep your horse held together.

6. Your really working your horses muscles with the tight turns and the trot poles, we would advise not to over do this exercise. Once your horses completes it to your satisfaction, reward & end your session. Always be sure to cool your horse off afterwards, by giving them a long rein to stretch in the walk.

This exercise was a real eye opener to how much more pole work we should be doing! The hind end really gets put to the test especially with the surprise cavaletti’s in the mix!

I think between Dante & Coco, they both managed it considerably well, with both of us finishing with great results. We did both come to the conclusion that more raised trot poles are needed, especially on a bend!! Head over to our Instagram page to check out the video of both horses giving it a go.

Be sure to try it out, & let us know how you get on by tagging us in your videos!

As always, thanks for reading & be sure to keep your eyes peeled for our May Jumping exercise “The Saucy Snake”!